Volcano Alert Raised

JAKARTA ~ Scientists have stepped up the alert level for a volcano in East Java and told people to stay away from the crater amid fears it is building up to an eruption.

The alert for Mount Kelut was raised to the third of a four-level warning system, the vulcanology office said this week.

It was based on recordings of increased seismic activity as well as rising temperatures in the crater lake and the shifting chemical composition of the water.

The office advised people to maintain a five-kilometer safety zone around the crater of Mount Kelut, or also known as Mount Kelud, and told residents to be prepared to evacuate at the first sign of any eruption.

The alert status had already been raised one step on September 11.

Although its slopes are sparsely inhabited, the peak is a popular domestic tourist destination and is located on a densely populated plain.

The 1,731-metre volcano last blew in 1990.

It has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 when it erupted in 1568.

The vulcanology office said that between September 26 and 29, 54 volcanic earthquakes and nine tectonic temblors had been recorded, and signs were that their epicenter was moving closer to the surface.

The lake on top of the volcano has also changed from its habitual greenish aspect into milky white, and gas was coming out, the office said.

It said the chemical concentrate in the water had risen significantly over the previous months and the temperature of the lake was steadily rising.

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